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An accused child sex offender in northeastern Florida cut off his ankle bracelet and set up an online crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of fleeing the country, authorities said this week.
Keith Morris Smith Jr., 29, vanished while awaiting trial and remains at large, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said on Wednesday.
“He also cut off his ankle bracelet and started a GoFundMe account to get out of the country,” Clay County Sheriff Sgt. Neal McDade said.
With the fundraiser, called “Trying to be free,” Smith aimed to raise $2,000.
“I’m fundraising to basically live,” Smith wrote on the page, WFOR-TV reported. “I was on bond that was revoked over something I never did.”
Smith’s crowdfunding attempt fell flat, however, and GoFundMe soon pulled the page. It had stated that he was in desperate need of money in order to facilitate his escape and that he feared for his life if he returned to jail.
“Now I’m on the run,” he added.
GoFundMe confirmed Smith’s post was taken down before any donations were made, as it violated the company’s terms of service.
“The protection and safety of our community is of the utmost importance, and all fundraisers must abide by our terms of service,” the website said in a statement sent to Oxygen.com.
It’s unclear where Smith fled. As of Friday evening, he hadn’t been arrested by local police.
“Keith Smith needs to turn himself in,” Andrew Ford, a public information officer for Clay County Sheriff’s Office, told Oxygen.com on Friday. “If he doesn't, we will find him.”
In November 2019, Smith was accused of having sexual contact with a 15-year-old in Keystone Heights, Florida, according to an arrest report obtained by Oxygen.com. The teenager, whose parents reported her missing, was found hiding in a closet in Smith’s home wearing only a large t-shirt.
Smith allegedly attempted to obscure the teen’s identity, the arrest report stated. He was charged with lewd and lascivious behavior, providing false info about a missing person, and two counts of interfering with the custody of a child, according to a booking sheet obtained by Oxygen.com.
Smith, who is now barred from having any contact with the teenager, violated pretrial release conditions on Jan. 14 after he allegedly messaged the minor on Facebook, separate court documents show.
A pre-trial hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 2, court records show. Attempts on Friday to reach Smith’s attorney, Jennifer Cogdill, were unsuccessful.
Smith has brown hair, weighs 155 pounds, and is approximately six-feet tall. He has tattoos on his left wrist and ribs of a “compass” and “diamonds,” his arrest report indicated. Authorities urged any member of the public who has knowledge of his whereabouts to contact the Clay County Sheriff’s Office at 904-264-6512.
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